"You have to trust me." His face was serious.
"Are you certain this is our only option?" The woman turned to him, worry crossing her determined yet beautiful face. In the darkness, the only thing he could see was the glint from her intelligent green eyes.
"What would you suggest?"
"I would kill him now, but I know that's not a good idea with Arturis around."
He laughed to himself. "Half the Powers want him dead, but that is not for us to decide tonight."
"I know, Nydael." She became serious once again. "But I just wish there was another way. This is too risky."
"Too risky? Even for you?" Nydael asked sarcastically.
She sighed. "Honestly, in all the times I've been involved with something like this, there has never been as much at stake or so many ways we could go wrong."
"I know," he replied, "but this would give us an advantage Cest has not forseen. If he thinks he has persuaded you, he will think he's invincible. And you will gain the secret to his downfall."
She paused, considering it. "I'm not sure. I want to defeat him as much as you do, but I'd be completely at his will... and at yours."
"You can trust me."
"I know. I understand his plan. I know what he will take." She stared at him for a moment, able to see his face much more clearly than he could in the darkness. "But if there is anyone I trust with my life, it is you. I hope you know what you're doing."
"You mean you'll do it?"
"It is the best way to find out how to defeat him."
He grasped her hand in his. "Don't worry. We won't fail. Arturis won't know what happened."
The two made their way along a well-hidden forest trail. Soon they arrived at the base of soaring cliffs, reaching up to the mountains above.
"I know this place," the woman whispered. "This is…"
"Shh. We must be silent."
Nydael approached the cliffs. He moved his hand over the rock as if searching for something. After a moment, he paused over a knob on the cool surface and muttered an incantation.
Stepping back, he saw that he was correct. A gap in the rock appeared and grew until there was an archway that reached several feet above his head.
"Listen. We don't have much time, but I need you to promise that you'll do what I say, no matter what happens."
She frowned. "All right. I trust you. I will do what you say."
He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. "Thank you. Are you ready?"
She followed. Nydael seemed to know exactly what he was doing as he led her through the pathways. Then suddenly the tunnel expanded into a room so wide, she could not see the sides.
They were not alone. A cold light illuminated the room, and two men stood waiting for them.
"So you have decided to come, Nydael," one of them said in a voice that was not at all friendly.
"Lord Cest," Nydael acknowledged him.
"King Cest," the other man corrected. "Ulvec has fallen. It is Cest who rules Ilgenar now, you ignorant mortal!"
"Calm yourself, Niamel," Cest said without turning to look at him. His gaze was focused on the woman, now standing behind Nydael. He gave a small smile. "It is ironic that you choose to join us tonight, Ainaval." Upon saying her name, the smile faded.
She tried to whisper something to Nydael, but he gave her a look that plainly said trust me.
"Come and sit," Cest invited Nydael as a pair of chairs appeared out of thin air. "We have much to discuss."
Nydael motioned for Ainaval to come with him. Tentatively, she sat facing Cest, but there was no backing out now. He stared back at her with eyes that were darker than the cave in which he stood.
"What is the purpose of this?" she asked. It was part of the plan. She was not supposed to know the purpose of the secret meeting.
No one replied for a moment. "Nydael, you are aware of why you have been summoned here, correct?" Cest asked, ignored Ainaval's confusion. Nydael nodded. "And you accept the terms?" Another nod. "Niamel, you know what to do."
Niamel started reciting something, an incantation that was as old as the earth itself. Ainaval looked up sharply. "What are you doing?" she cried as she jumped from her chair. This was not a part of their plan.
It was too late. Whatever magic Niamel was invoking, it was too strong to be broken now. Ainaval tried to ignite her own magic in attempt to stop them but found it wouldn't respond. Instead, the air around her seemed to fill with tension, concentrating on Nydael.
Niamel finished reciting and Nydael turned. Ainaval glanced up at him, for the first time, doubting her earlier promise.
She studied Nydael as he stood. He was still tall, with handsome dark hair and blue eyes, but there was something different about him. Every move he made was swift and confident, and he seemed to be more powerful.
"I trust you," Ainaval whispered quietly. No one heard.
"And now," Cest began, "we can finish the task at hand."
All three men turned to Ainaval. Cest stepped forward with a gold object in his palm. Nydael reached out and placed his hand on top of Cest's.
"Ainaval, stretch out your hand." She shook her head, doubting their not for her promise to Nydael, she would have killed Cest several minutes ago. But she had promised.
Behind Cest, Nydael gave her a slight nod. "Do it," he whispered.
So she reached out and placed her hand on Nydael's. As soon as she did, she was frozen in place.
Niamel began reciting again, but this time, the words were harsh and cold. Ainaval's eyes focused on Nydael's, as he stood tall across from her. In that instant, she understood what was happening.
He had betrayed her.
She realized what Nydael was doing. She knew their plans. And it was worth more than her life to make sure they did not succeed.
But she could not stop them.
Far away, the untrustworthy man's brother screamed his name in fury.
A/N: Sorry about this. I know it's just the prologue (you didn't even get to meet the main character yet!), but I'd love to hear what kind of first impression the story made and how I can make it better. I will be revising/updating frequently, so any comments are appreciated!